Idaho finishes third in Big Sky Championship, three strokes behind champion NAU
Three shots was all that separated the Idaho women’s golf team from the Big Sky Conference champion Northern Arizona Tuesday in Chandler, Arizona.
The Vandals entered the third and final round of the conference championship in second place, four strokes behind Southern Utah. They finished the competition in third place with a 40-over-par 904 and three strokes behind champion Northern Arizona, which shot a 37-over-par 901.
“We were hugely disappointed,” Idaho coach Lisa Johnson said. “That being said, we played our hearts out. I mean, everyone gave great effort and that’s golf and sports. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. We can hold our heads high and know that we gave it our best effort. It just wasn’t our week.”
The Vandals shot a 301 Sunday and Monday and a 302 Tuesday.
Sacramento State took second in the conference championship with a 39-over-par 903.
Northern Arizona needed to play a solid third round in order to win, and it did just that. The Lumberjacks, who only had to travel about 165 miles south to Chandler from their campus in Flagstaff, shot the low round Tuesday, a 297, to surpass the teams in front of them.
Idaho senior Leilanie Kim, who played in her last conference championship as a Vandal, led Idaho with a score of 7-over-par 223 and tied for fourth.
Johnson said Kim’s consistency will not be replaced when she leaves Idaho.
“However, we know that there’s big things ahead for her and look forward to following her professional career, and she’s one of the absolute best kids I’ve ever coached in my entire life,” Johnson said. “She’s a team player, leader, coachable, genuinely a nice person.”
Two other Vandals put their names toward the top of the leaderboard. Sophomore Amy Hasenoehrl shot a 9-over-par 225 and tied for eighth and junior Kristin Strankman shot a 10-over-par 226 and tied for 11th.
Johnson said Hasenoehrl played well and did her part.
“She played hard,” Johnson said. “She stepped up when we needed her and we look forward to her continual improvement in the next two years.”
Idaho senior Kaitlyn Oster shot her best round of the three-day championship in the final round. Oster shot a three-round, 16-over-par 232 and tied for 27th. Junior Cassie McKinley carded a 22-over-par 238 and tied for 38th to round out the five Vandal golfers.
Even though Idaho didn’t win the championship, four out of the five Vandal starters earned Big Sky awards, which were decided by the Big Sky coaches. The Vandals nabbed three out of the five first team all-conference positions with Kim, Oster and Strankman being selected to the first team. Hasenoehrl earned a spot on the honorable mention team.
Portland State’s A Ram Choi continued her Big Sky dominance as she took home the individual Big Sky Championship title for the second year in a row, becoming the first player in Big Sky history to win back-to-back titles and the third player to win the championship twice. Choi also won her third straight Big Sky Women’s Golfer of the Year award.
This was the Idaho women’s golf team’s first time competing for a Big Sky Championship in almost 20 years. During their absence from the conference, the Vandals competed in the Big West and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org